Monday, February 25, 2013

And the Winner Is...

Awards season.  Honestly, most people just call it February, but some wait the whole year—even their whole lives—for that time when “who are you wearing” becomes more important than who you are with, and the joy of being nominated causes a city-wide spike in the sale of lemons, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and laxatives.  For all of us working stiffs in Los Angeles, awards season is just that time of the year when traffic in West L.A. gets even more obnoxiously unpredictable, and in particular for me, when those annoying road closures and detours make it impossible to drive to the best juice bar in Weho to get my favorite Sunday beet-ginger-green drink.  I actually have to walk.  And it’s cold that time of year.  I sometimes even have to wear a light jacket.

Seriously.  Most of us have real champagne quality problems. Missing my Sunday juice won’t break me, just like losing an award won’t break anybody in Hollywood.  However, winning that award can make a career.  By Monday, nobody’s talking about who lost the naked man.  All that matters is who the winner is.

Whether it’s a green drink or a golden statue, everybody wants a win.  Some thing that makes you feel like you’re living the dream, kicking ass and taking names, on top of the world.  For example, my client—let’s call her Emmy—she’s a junior at a major agency who works twenty-five hour days (workouts out for an additional three), got straight A’s at a top B-school, and currently has her sights set on a big promotion that will only result in a little increase to her salary, but a sizeable increase to her statue—I mean stature—in the business.  It’s not even a “thing” she can touch, but she wants them to give it to her because it will mean they like her…they really, really like her.  And we all just want to be liked.  The problem is, Emmy’s desperate need to be liked is resulting in an aversion to being licked.  And that’s where I come in.

Emmy doesn’t have time for a boyfriend; she’s too busy running the Santa Monica Stairs up the Hollywood corporate ladder to bother with a crazy little thing called love.  Rather, Emmy has historically used sex and a steady stream of short-term romantic entanglements to fill the space on her internal mantle until she can replace it with the big award, which for Emmy, is career success.  At this point, Emmy is so close to winning that she’s lost her orgasm.  But man alive, is she looking for it!  Literally.  In every man alive.

In just the past two months, Emmy’s run the gamut of passion prizes.  There was the guy with the golden globes.  She said his nipples were so shiny and perky, she felt like they were staring at her—giving a whole new synopsis to The Hills Have Eyes.  Then there was the SAG.  She said his scrotal sack was so saggy, she couldn’t keep her head in the game.  It was like being spanked with wet tennis ball-filled gym socks—that doesn’t exactly lend itself to love, set, match.  Then there was the super intense, hipster-intellectual she picked up while dropping off her laundry at the Fluff-and-Fold.  She got him back to her place and quickly realized he was her Independent Spirit—a lotta talk, not much action.  But really, none of these guys stood a chance because Emmy was holding out for her Oscar.  Her boss, Oscar Lazar.  This is the week Oscar will tell her if she’s won the promotion.  But what I told Emmy was, as soon as she wins it, there will just be another prize she’ll need to win.  I’ve tried to help her see that there is no person, place, or thing that can ever successfully satisfy an insatiable need for success.

If Emmy wants to win back her orgasm, she’s going to have to get over her fear of losing.  So often the fear of losing isn’t about those catastrophic losses, rather the every day ones…the mundane things-to-do list that is life.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels like I need my own personal tickertape parade every time I do anything good.  If I let someone merge into my lane during rush hour, or breathe in an extra four seconds at yoga, or get through a week without canceling any of my therapy sessions, I genuinely want trumpets to sound, and Beyoncé to perform, and red carpets to roll out in congratulations and celebration that this week, Lainey, you didn’t suck.  It’s indoctrinated in infancy!  Sit still, and you’ll get a cookie.  Be good, and you’ll get a toy.  We’re taught that there will always be a reward when we put in an effort—and the bigger the effort, the bigger the reward.  Right?  Wrong.  In real, grownup life, that’s just not true.  That type of thinking ensures that even if you’re doing everything right, if there’s no prize at the end, you end up feeling like a big loser.  But, when you think of it, everyday we are all losing some prize or another.  Most of us didn't win an Emmy, or Golden Globe, or an Oscar this year, and it didn’t matter.  That’s the key to relieving anxiety—find a way to make it (whatever that “it” is for you) not matter so much.  Emmy has stopped experiencing physical pleasure because the pain of her need for emotional validation in the form of professional success has blocked it.  I’m encouraging Emmy to let this week be about letting go of the need, so she can really get what she wants.  If she doesn’t need the success, the success will surely come.  And so will she.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tit for Tat

There comes a time in every relationship when the proverbial jig is up.  The deck is depleted and you have to show your hand.  In romance, some time between coming and going, both parties have to come clean.

There are the obvious lies of illusion to fess up about, i.e., his internet profile said he was 5’ 11”, but without his lifts he’s really 5’ 5”, or her skin looks flawless, but waking up to her a.m. facade feels like staring at the dark side of the moon.  Perhaps he picks you up for the date in a Mercedes SLK, but after the date, when he takes you back to his place, it’s a 300 sq-ft bachelor with little more than an air mattress and a hot plate.  Or maybe you’re really digging your new girlfriend’s perky and plentiful décolletage only to get her undressed and find her tits really reside closer to her navel than her neck.  That’s the real secret Victoria’s hiding!  Unless she’s under 25 years-old, or slinging silicone, no woman’s tits are as perky or perfect as a strategic placement of underwire and hooks purport them to be.  Let’s face it girls, we’re almost all liars to some degree.  Our cheeks aren’t that rosy, our lashes aren’t that long, our hair does not sprout from our scalps with perfect sun-kissed highlights and chestnut undertones, and though we may start the evening with bodacious tatas, by the end of the night are tits will be deflated somewhere around our armpits.  But what we really want to know is, will he love us anyway?

Chris Rock once joked that nobody starts a relationship as his or her true self, rather we all send our representative.  We put our best foot forward, hiding the bunions and ingrown toenails under Cinderella’s glass slipper.  And many of the women I see in my office would rather flee the scene than let Prince Charming see how jacked up her feet really are.

For example, I have a client, we’ll call her Cindy, who came to me desperate to find true love.  She took excellent care of her body, was highly educated, poised, and had even learned rules, stats, and players of every major US-televised sport as to make herself more attractive to men.  But Cindy could never seem to score when it came to romance.  Much like Cinderella, Cindy had been made into the belle of the ball, but her beauty, both outside and in, was on a ticking clock.  Eventually, midnight would strike and the prince du jour would find out that she wasn’t that beautiful, or that sweet, and that his little princess was the one thing so many women are afraid to be – human.  Cindy and I discovered that all her lies of illusion boiled down to one simple lie of omission.  She had been omitting her true self from all of her relationships.  She’d been operating under the common delusion that romantic relationships are a game of tit for tat.  She thought if she gave her men a beautiful outside, then they would make her feel beautiful on the inside.  But if Cindy couldn’t get her outsides to match her insides herself, she was never going to find the love she desired.  No man could make her feel whole when her story was only half-truths.  There’s just no tit for that.

Cindy and I worked on building her self-esteem by daring to get acquainted with her true self.  And once the real Cindy emerged, she realized falling in love was less about her makeup and pushup bras, than it was about being woman enough to admit that, when it came to relationships, she was really just a scared little girl.

We are, all of us, just emotional infants fumbling about in grownup skin.  In the game of love, we compete, and bluff, and one-up each other because we’re really all just afraid of losing.  I wonder what lies might be standing in the way of my own romantic end game.  Could the big-O be eluding me because, just like Cindy, I was a big faker?  For all my boys and toys, could it be that the one thing I really need to try in order to come, is to come clean?  Finally show a partner who I really am?  If so, I don’t know if that can be done in the next 246 days.  Perhaps my sexual revolution will end up just like my new year’s resolutions – facedown in a pint of rum raisin, dripping all over my brand new yoga pants.  I just don’t know.  Cindy’s story was a success.  Eventually.  Maybe mine will be too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Hollywood Walk of Shame

We’ve all been there, ladies.  Early Sunday morning, the taste of last night’s vodka cranberries still tickling the back of your throat, wondering if the guy whose apartment you just left will call, and kinda hoping he doesn’t.  Saturday night’s stilettos aren’t quite as fierce when they’re click-clacking over the morning concrete with the Sunday churchgoers gawking at you as they turn the corner.  You’re no streetwalker, but you are kinda walkin’ the streets, and those super cute booty shorts from your uptown Saturday last night feel about 5-inches shorter in the light of day.  We tell ourselves, “no big deal. I’m young.  A modern woman.”  But still, if we see someone we know coming our way, we cross the street quicker than Sarah Silverman crosses the line.  In Los Angeles, not even the Hollywood Walk of Fame gets as much action as the Sunday morning walk of shame.

You could’ve brought Mr. Saturday Night to your place, but you’ve kinda gotten sick of the fresh squeezed judgment your roommate is prone to serve up with the next morning’s orange juice.  And, let’s be honest, don’t we think our 1000 thread-count designer sheets are too classy to be corrupted by some club dude whose biggest claim to fame is mastery of the stanky leg?  What if, after the dirty deed, he tried to clean up with our decorative hand towels?  We may be indiscriminate with our bed buddies, but home décor is sacred.  So we risk week-old pizza boxes, and more roommates that can fit in a clown car, to spend the night at his place.  We stash the Tory Burch clutch with condoms and hope the night will end up with a Hard Rock instead of at the Heartbreak Hotel, but either way, at morning’s first light we opt for early check-out.  As cosmopolitan as we all may be, why is it that we sexual weekend warriors so often end our missions in dishonorable discharge?

Take, for example, my client Slumber Patty…a girl who was always ready for a sleepover.  Patty came to me six months shy of her 40th birthday, bewitched and bewildered as to how she was ever going to end up walking down the aisle when she kept finding herself doing the Sunday morning walk of shame.  She had always considered herself a sexually liberated, modern woman whose weekend adventures were par for the single-gal-in-the-city course.  But Patty had recently realized she could no longer so easily walk off her sleepover hangovers.  More and more, she was finding herself emotionally drunk off a guy that wouldn’t have even gotten her romantically tipsy ten years ago.  But now, her heart grew heavier and heavier every time Mr. Saturday Night turned out not to be Mr. Right.  She hadn’t even realized it, but some time between lust and breaking dawn, Patty had started looking for love.

Slumber Patty had enjoyed years of orgasms with a plethora of partners.  A part of me was jealous of her record wins, and felt kinda like a big loser in comparison.  But I quickly realized, though Patty had made it to the sexual Superbowl plenty of times and I could barely get out of the regular season on top, she and I had a lot in common.  Both of us had intimacy on a ticking clock.  Patty’s alarm went off when the sun came up, and mine went off after 55-minutes on the couch.  I could get to know my clients more intimately than perhaps anyone in their lives because I knew our time would soon be up and my client would never get to know me.  And though Patty knew plenty of men in the biblical sense, she really knew nothing about them, and they knew even less about her, and the truth was…she liked it that way.  I helped Patty see how her repeated entanglements with emotionally unavailable men were a neon-flashing-red flag that she herself was emotionally unavailable.  We worked on her ability to become emotionally intimate with herself first, and then with her other relationships.  Patty found that even seeing me more than once a week made her want to run for the hills, but she took contrary action and kept coming back.  She worked her way up from staying through breakfast at one of her Mr. Saturday Nights’ place to actually hosting her first sleepover with a guy she’d been dating for 12-consecutive Saturday nights.  Though they aren’t yet walking down the aisle, now, when Patty takes her morning walks, she feels no shame.

Dr. Lainey Toussaint
(I'm not a doctor, but soon to play one on TV)

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Relationship Equation

Challenge!  Poll one hundred men and one hundred women and ask, “What’s the best thing about having a mate?”  If my experience as a sex therapist is indicative of a larger truth, a vast majority of men will say, “regular sex partner,” and the women will say simply, “partnership.”

Now, some men may complain that when they say “regular” sex partner, that’s exactly what they mean – regular.  Married men often come to my office lamenting their ho-hum sex lives, demoralized that after “I do”, their wives don’t do them anymore.  Gone are the days of freaky Fridays and sex-filled Saturday afternoon slutfests.  Once you put a ring on it, Friday’s are reserved for Redbox (sadly, no sexual pun intended), and Saturday afternoons are filled with carpools and kids’ soccer games.  For many of my married male clients, the last time they saw their wives on her knees, she was more likely spot-cleaning her hardwoods than about to do anything to his manhood.  And the last time she was bottoms-up bent over the sofa, she was more likely fishing guppy-shaped crackers out of couch cushions crevices than waiting to be pillaged by his Captain Hook.  But still, “regular” sex – be it in quality or quantity – is better than no sex.  At least if you’re a man.

My married female clients are no less concerned with the sexual partnership of their relationships than their husbands.  They just value the overall cooperative aspect of the marriage more than the coital aspect.  To many married women, sex and relations are not mutually exclusive, i.e., the quality of the relationship determines the quality of the sex.  Whereas, for many married men, the quality of the sex determines the quality of the relationship.  The fewer hummers he’s getting, the more ho-hum his relationship input.  Conversely, the more ho-hum the relationship, the fewer hummers she’s likely to give.  In the marriage equation, if relationship input of y = sexual output of x why do so many marriage partnerships feel unequal?

Take my clients – let’s call them Dick and Jane.  Dick is tired of his wife being such a plain Jane, and Jane is tired of…well…Dick being such a dick.  They’ve settled into a sexual rut wherein Dick is so used to paralytic penetration (you know, when the sex is so boring it feels like you’re having intercourse with an invalid) that he just kinda pumps and dumps.  He goes hard, and when he gets off, he literally gets off – of Jane – whether she’s gotten off or not (an it’s usually not).  Dick takes for granted that Jane is just not that into sex, so he’s stopped trying to please her.   What I know that Dick doesn’t, is Jane is a sexual adventurer.  My one-on-one sessions with her have revealed fantasies and desires that could turn Dick out.  Hard.  Rick James style.  Dick doesn’t know this because Jane is sick of telling him.  Every time Jane tells Dick to take out the trash, she’s really telling him how trashy she wants to get with him.  Every time she tells him to help clean up the kitchen after dinner, she’s telling him how dirty she wants to get with him in the bedroom after dessert.   Jane is speaking her own personal love language but Dick can’t translate it.  Nor should he have to.  There’s no Rosetta Stone for this.  The only way to really learn your partner’s love language is by immersion.  It’s clumsy at first, but just like my semester abroad, being relentless about speaking a romance language, instead of falling back on the comfort of your native tongue, can be the difference between PASS and FAIL.

Since Dick started prioritizing their relationship partnership, Jane has become a better language teacher, and traded passive aggression for passion aggression.  Everything Dick does outside of the bedroom to show Jane he’s got her back yields such dividends in the bedroom that Dick is now getting it from the back, the front, sideways – seriously, Jane goes upside down on him on a regular basis.  Dick and Jane have balanced the relationship equation by finding the common denominator; when they both put forth the effort, the ole “in and out” is a lot more fun.  Now, Dick puts in more time working to be a real partner, and Jane is excitedly putting out.  Hard.  Rick James style.

Dr. Lainey Toussaint
(I'm not a doctor, but soon to play one on TV)